Namibia, home to some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes and friendliest people, is a must-see. As a backpacker you’ll find many places here that are bucket-list worthy, offering you the opportunity to have the most spectacular time. We provide the ultimate guide to backpacking in Namibia.
Tourism is one of Namibia’s biggest sectors, so finding the right way to explore the country is easy as the sector is professionally run to meet the highest of service standards. All kinds of backpackers can be found exploring Namibia’s vast landscape throughout the year. Tourists from southern African countries make use of multiple access points to Namibia along its borders with Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa. Others travel from as further afield to find out just what this charming country is all about. Every corner of Namibia offers the backpacker a unique experience.
If it’s lush green vegetation and rivers you wish to explore, the north-eastern regions are a ideal for you. To sand board on the tallest dunes in the world, go camel riding, or simply take in some of the most breathtaking sunsets you will ever see, the coast is where you’ll want to explore. Spooky ghost houses and shipwrecks will keep you fascinated when visiting the coastal town of Luderitz – you haven’t tasted great sea food in Namibia if you’ve never made it to their annual cray fish festival.
It’s absolutely crucial to hire a car when travelling to remote areas, as transport is not easily available. For a more affordable accommodation alternative try camping, which is both cheap and convenient for the traveller on a budget.
Namibians are a diverse group of people who speak different languages and come from different cultural backgrounds. They are known to be very friendly and welcoming of visitors, so don’t be shy to make new friends when visiting. English is the official language, but when visiting rural areas you may want to learn some common phrases to connect with the locals. Because cultures are so diverse, accepted conventions while staying in the capital city of Windhoek are not necessarily what’s accepted in smaller towns and villages. For example, make sure to observe how locals greet each other or show respect to one another – it goes a long way in getting people to be more open to you.
The Namibian dollar is the official currency traded, while the South African Rand is also widely used. Swiping facilities are widely available in urban areas but not in smaller, more remote areas. However, major credit and debit cards are accepted at most accomodation sites. One USD is equivalent to 13.25 Namibian dollars (as at July 2018).
Namibia’s restaurant scene is still growing, but a few spots offer some great meals at decent prices – simply ask around for referrals. The most famous local dish, kapana will be an absolute experience to try out. Consisting of thinly-cut beef strips roasted over an open fire, this local delicacy best goes down with a freshly-chopped relish and an ice-cold beer. This dish will cost you no more than seven USD for a portion that can feed four.
1 meal (USD$2–$11) Depending on where you choose to have a meal, upscale or at a very affordable eatery such as a local market.
1 beer (USD$1–$2)
1 night at a backpacker hotel (USD$12–$22)
1 cheap mode of transport (USD$0.75–$2)
1 hygiene/medical essential (USD$0.75–$2)
1 affordable experience, eg entry to a music festival in the city (USD$3–$6)
Head to Brandberg, for the mountain climber who dares to take on the toughest terrains for the pursuit of the most unforgettable mountain peak in Namibia. Climbing Brandberg mountain will reward you greatly. This, the highest peak in Namibia, is home to some of the world’s oldest rock carvings and rock art and the the famous Welwitschia mirabilis plant. Make sure to pack enough sunscreen as the harsh afternoon sun is unforgiving.
Home to most of Namibia’s rivers and probably the country’s friendliest people, the Zambezi is a visitor’s delight. The region offers easy entry and exit between Namibia and four other countries. The most popular local delicacy, fried Zambezi bream, is best eaten at the open market in the region’s economic hub, Katima Mulilo. Make sure to carry mosquito repellent and get your anti-malaria shot at least one week before visiting. Don’t miss out on the boat rides that are both a terrifying (watch out for crocodiles and hippos) and thrilling.
Namibia’s coastal gem, Swakopmund is a quaint coastal town known for its German architecture and beautiful beaches. While many activities in the town can be pricey, other fun things to do, like visiting the local museum, the snake park and aquarium, will cost you little to nothing. The highest dune in the Namib Desert, Dune 7, is just a few minutes drive away in neighbouring Walvisbay. Swakopmund gets very busy during December when it’s hot, and locals as well as tourists flock to the beaches to seek relief from the scorching weather.
While it has long prided itself as being one of the safest African countries to visit, crime has become an issue of concern, and as a tourist is not something that should be taken lightly. Namibia, however, remains much safer than many other countries on the continent, and tourists will be happy to know that a special Tourist Protection Unit within the Namibian Police Force has been specifically set up to fight tourist-related crime. National Parks remain some of the safest places to visit in the country, but as one should do when travelling anywhere in the world, safety precautions should always be a priority. Don’t travel at night, avoid walking around with large wads of cash and always be aware of your surroundings.